Oct 5 2014

us in the US

Before the nation’s capital city woke up, we took a jetlag stroll.

Over two weeks, we conducted nine extraordinary events in Washington D.C., New York & Massachusetts.…from book festivals, presenting to Children’s Book Guild and SCBWI peers, conducting hands-on workshops, launching a book and meetings with publishers. Bonus was this all took place during my most favorite time of year – Autumn!

The tour was kick-started with an invitation to present our new book, The MayflowerHoliday House Books at the renowned Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. To speak at this celebrated bookstore was a great honour. From this one invitation,  all other events rolled into fruition.







The following day we were guest speakers at the Children’s Book Guild’s luncheon held at Busboys and Poets. Attended by many members of the Guild, including established authors, illustrators and specialists in children’s literature, such as professors of children’s literature, librarians and reviewers, bookstore folk and some familiar faces:

Dr. Ernie Bond, Dr. Patty Dean, and Marcella Terrusi all the way from Bologna…




…and the one and only, Laura Krauss Melmed, fabulous wordsmith for the following books created together:

Capital! Washington D.C. from A-Z

New York, New York: The Big Apple A-Z,



and Heart of Texas: A Lone Star ABC.

The highlight of our tour was An Open Book Foundation’s school visit to Savoy Elementary School. An Open Book Foundation’s mission is to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving books to students and providing access to authors and illustrators – and what a unanimously positive experience it is for all involved! We conducted a ‘meet the author and Illustrator’ presentation followed by an art activity. At the conclusion of each presentation An Open Book Foundation gave each student a copy of our book – Drummer Boy of John John -Lee & Low Books – to take home,

signed and personalized by the people who actually wrote and illustrated it. The students were so excited to leave each our sessions clutching their very own book. An Open Book program is as uplifting and rewarding for authors and illustrators as it is for students. We will never forget the look of joy on the faces of the students, who couldn’t wait to take their new books home and share the experience with their families. Comments by students: You mean we get to keep the book? We don’t have to bring it back?” andI can keep this book for my whole life. Even when I grow up?

For a complete set of photos click here!

Off to New York to participate in the children’s program at one of America’s premier book festivals – the Brooklyn Book Festival!

The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York City, presenting an array of national and international literary stars and emerging authors. We loved catching up with legendary Australian author Libby Gleeson and spent the day checking out the many Indie publishers’ booths together…

…and always fun to catch up with the local tribe of the New York City Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators represented in true style at the Festival.

While in NY, we met up with the lovely Louise May, Lee and Low Books editor of Drummer Boy of John John & the brilliant Grace Maccarone, Holiday House Books editor on The Mayflower.







We then zigzagged across the state of Massachusetts for a series of events, where the autumn colors were truly starting to burst and home to some serious red barns.

First was the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators New England chapter meeting. We shared a presentation about cross cultural books & our experiences of creating books and bookmaking workshops in Australian indigenous communities, inspiring student’s natural curiosity about reading and writing in remote regions where story is more than words.

The old streets of Boston led us to visit the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in the Public Garden. Robert McCloskey’s other classic book, “Blueberries for Sal”, was my all time childhood favorite.

Boston is the home of Candlewick Press. In preparation of the April US release of Midnight we shared the story behind the story to a packed roomful of keen sales, marketing and editorial staff.

Crossing over to western Massachusetts for our story time and art activity at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.

But not before an evening playtime with good old friends from the little Caribbean island of Montserrat who live nearby in Northampton! Photo taken by amazing photographer & children’s book author, Shelly Rotner.

The Eric Carle Museum was created to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. It is the only museum of its kind in the US. The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. The Museum’s has a collection of more than 10,000 picture book illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theatre, picture book libraries, and educational programs. It was a huge honour to be invited to conduct a presentations there for the second time.



Finally, and absolutely fabulous, was an invitation to present at the Plimoth Plantation Museum in Plymouth Massachusetts.

The Plimoth Plantation offers powerful personal encounters with living history built on thorough research about the Wampanoag People and the Colonial English community in the 1600s. Plymouth is also home to the Mayflower II replica.

Returning to the site of our original research which began three years ago, was full circle for us.


Our book, The Mayflower, tells the story of the Pilgrim’s journey to New England. It’s been getting some pretty awesome reviews:
Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Children’s Book Council
Booklist – to be posted October 15th.

And then, after nine extraordinary events in three states, it was our own long voyage home.

THANK YOU to West Australia’s Department Culture and the Arts for their contribution of my airfare, Artflight.

Jul 28 2014

Children’s Book Week & School Visits

As I scroll down my Book Week Month schedule and about to face 27 school visits, I thought I’d share my tried and tested top ten survival tips.

1. Reconfirm dates and times with the library or school beforehand. Organisers have been known to go on long service leave or change position.

2. Prepare a presentation that’s age appropriate – find out in advance what year levels you will be seeing. If it’s the entire school in one presentation, you will need to engage the little ones through to the older students. Prepare accordingly.

3. Confirm equipment needs: i.e. a data projector/interactive whiteboard. Always good to carry an extra VGA cable, HDMI cable, powerboard and batteries for a remote. If technology fails, be prepared to have a Plan B
= you alone and the audience. It’s refreshing!

4. Ask where best to park. Organisers will know parking restrictions or may offer you a prime spot.

5. Sign books or autograph books, but not tiny scraps of paper. Alternatively, ask the teacher to photocopy a sheet with multiple signatures.

6. Teachers will adore you if you leave a ‘hands-on’ activity they can use in the classroom for follow-up after your visit.

7. Ask in advance if the school would like a book order form to purchase books for the students and/or school.

8. Be respectful in your presentation. Don’t go for the shock and awe to amuse the students with words that will upset the teachers. Especially if you want an invitation back or anywhere for that matter. Word travels quickly.

9. Ask for a microphone if you feel your voice is going – even with a small group. Don’t wait til it goes completely.

10. Be prepared to change tack. Have Plan B ready to go and even a Plan C.

Inspiring children about books and reading is a great gift to share.
So get out there, good luck and enjoy!

Jun 7 2014

Celebrating Children’s Literature in Singapore

Imagine a 16th story library. Fill it with publishers, educators, agents, parents, librarians, authors and illustrators from all over the world. All gathered to celebrate, learn and share knowledge at the most dynamic and fastest growing literary festivals – the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC).

I was honoured to be one of six selected delegates from West Australia to present at this year’s Festival. There were many wonderful moments…

…being on a panel moderated by children’s book historian, Leonard S. Marcus. If you haven’t seen his landmark exhibition: The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at The New York Public Library – move it up to #1 on your bucket list as it ends in September.

The panel was shared with Junko YokotaDirector of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books. Coincidentally, she is a coauthor of four college textbooks that I’ve illustrated: Children’s Books in Children’s Hands. Even though Junko and I have worked together for the past twenty years, we only met in person recently.To round up our panel was Mariko Takagi, an author and book designer extraordinaire.

Another best bit was conducting an all day masterclass alongside the charming Spanish illustrator, Javier Zabala. We hope all attendees went away with new skills and loads of inspiration. I look forward to seeing your illustrative published work in the near future.


I wish to thank writingWA for their support in making this opportunity possible. Thank you to the WA State Government through Department of Culture and the Art for their recognition of important cultural exchanges such as the AFCC. And of course thank you to the National Book Development Council of Singapore for the initiative of bringing Asian content to the world’s children.

Feb 20 2014

Midnight on Exhibition

A preview of the “Midnight”exhibition at The Literature Centre

It’s always a thrill to look back and follow the stages involved in preparing a book for publication.

- from its origin and inspiration to the extensive research involved.

- the ‘journeys of discovery’ that help balance creative interpretation with historical authenticity.

- the development of a storyline to the rough drafts and sketches.

- the creative process of the artist that leads to original art.

Midnight captures the bond between horse and rider, the journey to war and an important moment in Australian military history. The Literature Centre invites school groups to view this moving, thought-provoking exhibition – a perfect workshop for students in the lead up to ANZAC Day. Suitable for Year 3 – Year 7
To book go here:

We’ll be celebrating Midnight with an informal gathering at the Literature Centre on Open Day, Sunday, March 16th from 2–3.00pm. Join Gee Jay the light horse for an Anzac biscuit and a cuppa. For details, click on the invite.

Jan 29 2014

Creating Midnight

There can be no better way to research than to follow in the footsteps of your characters. With Midnight, the first step was contacting Peter Haydon at Bloomfield Homestead in NSW, where Guy Haydon grew up and where Midnight was born. Mark and I shared our ideas about making a picture book based on their family folklore. To say the least, they were thrilled that we wanted to bring their family history to life for children. Ali and Peter Haydon warmly welcomed us into their home and generously gave us access to their archive room, where Guy’s war relics are preserved, along with his personal correspondence from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the desert campaign.

Inspiration for the first painting:






We walked through the fields alongside the Pages River where Midnight was born and traveled up to the high country where Midnight’s bloodlines still roam free. Here’s a photo of the broodmares taken at Scott’s Creek where they run in lush paddocks with plenty of space to rear their magnificent foals. The Haydon horses have a unique claim of being bred by the same family on the same property since the early 1830`s.

Then Mark and I headed off to Israel to follow the trail of the light horsemen and their various stops at wells for the three days leading up to the charge at Beersheba. This is a remote site where they stopped to water their horses.

Midnight’s story captured my heart. My greatest challenge was to capture the devoted bond between Midnight and Guy. I hope my paintings reflect a deep reverence for a light horseman and his beloved mare.

Here’s my process…from thumbnails to preliminary sketches to the final art:

Jan 18 2014

Midnight – a story within the story

In the fading afternoon light, on October 31st 1917, the mounted infantry division of the 4th and 12th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse took part in one of the last great cavalry charges in history. The capture of the wells of Beersheba, against a well-entrenched enemy, was a glorious hour in Australian military history. The audacious victory held the key to the Middle East campaign of World War 1, and led to the liberation of Jerusalem and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

as told by Mark Greenwood

The spark to write about the light horse and the charge at Beersheba came from a visit to a school in Queensland where I saw the famous photograph of the charge hanging in the school hall.

The photo, and the controversy surrounding it instantly intrigued me. I began reading many light horse books with a view to writing a story that would bring this moment in our history to life.

I’m drawn to little known slices of history where themes like courage and mateship play an important role in defining our past. So I began a search for a story within the story – I was searching for a tale of one horse and one rider among those brave 800 – a story that would give readers a sense of atmosphere and participation and excitement about that historic event.

And that’s how Midnight’s story found me!

I visited the Haydon’s Bloomfield homestead in the Hunter Valley, NSW where Midnight was born. I was graciously granted access to Guy’s letters from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the campaign in Palestine.

Then, together with Frané, we travelled to the scene of the famous charge and retraced the places where Guy and Midnight camped in the last few days leading up to the charge.

For me, going to the setting I’m writing about, where the historical event actually occurred, is one of the crucial stages in bringing history to life. It is a fascinating part of the process of writing about the past.


This book was inspired by the folklore of the Haydon family from “Bloomfield”, in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Riding his beloved mare, Midnight, Guy Haydon, a 25-year-old stockman, enlisted with the 12th Light Horse Regiment on 15th of February 1915.

Lt. Haydon was parted from his horse when he was sent to Gallipoli. When he returned to Egypt he was allocated another, but no horse could replace Midnight. Lieutenant Haydon searched for weeks amongst the thousands of army horses until he found Midnight with another regiment. Negotiations between the commanding officers of both regiments to swap horses eventually reunited the soldier and his horse.

During the battle for Gaza, Midnight remained continuously under saddle for seven days and nights – testament to the endurance of this wonderful horse, as well as to the care she received from Guy Haydon.

The Lieutenant and Midnight served together until sunset on the 31st of October 1917 when the 4th and 12th Regiments of Australian Light Horse charged the Turkish stronghold of Beersheba. Riding Midnight, Lieutenant Haydon was one of the first to leap the enemy trenches.

Midnight’s story is told in a simple prose style, accompanied by Frane’s vibrant interpretation in this poignant re-imagining of an extraordinary event in Australia’s history.

This story ends on a solemn note, but Midnight is a hero and her inspiring story is one that I hope many young Australians will read, just as we read about other heroes whose stories have contributed to our national myth-making.

History is about listening and sharing stories. I hope our Midnight will encourage readers to think critically about the tragedy of war. I hope the story will linger in the reader’s memory long after the book is closed.

Midnight – the story of a light horse published by Walker Books Australia.
US edition to be released in 2015 by Candlewick Press.
Buy online or in all good bookstores from February 1st, 2014

Jul 28 2013

Cross Check

It’s not because I love the dull thud of the aircraft doors being hermetically sealed followed by the words, cross-check, nor how I ‘love the smell of jet fuel when I wake up in the mornings’. Since my last posting there were way too many interstate and overseas invitations to amazing places that kept me on the hop. Wasn’t a problem, until I got home and my own family and friends did not know me by name.

Appreciate being home, sleeping in my own bed, pottering around the garden, cooking and most importantly, painting in my studio. With multiple books under contract, my wings are clipped.

I initially created this colour coded immaculate airtight schedule with good intentions – now gone by the wayside.

Happy happy happy as it’s given me the time to complete “The Mayflower” for Holiday House Publishers USA. Here’s a wee mini glimpse.

I so enjoyed working on this project as the editor just let me get on with it – she let me paint. She trusts that I will deliver my best.

The question might arise: Will my intuitive go at a painting be the best or if a publisher asks me to rework and rework something over and over, jumping through hoops with prelim material, will it eventually evolve into something better? I prefer the spontaneity.

And oh…. I discovered Charvin paints when I was in Paris. The shop was right next to my hotel. A true romance has begun with the creamiest gouaches in the world.

May 23 2012

The Book Boat Ships Off

Euphoria. Completed art ready to ship to New York.
The Book Boat for Holiday House Publishers had many ports of call. At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where I met the editor Grace Maccarone for the very first time.

Los Angeles and by pure syncronicity, I met the author, Cynthia Cotten (shhh- don’t tell the publisher).

Upstate New York and a visit to the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse for research and finally Fremantle, Australia to create the art.

So what’s in the box…here’s a sneak preview of the art. Click on image to see full spread. To see more, you may have to buy the book next spring. ;-)

Feb 14 2012

The Greatest Liar on Earth – A True Story

“Truth is Stranger than fiction. But De Rougemont is stranger than both”
– The Wide World Magazine June 1899

Received an advance copy of the new book today. I’m thrilled.
Painting Louis’s entertaining tall tales was an artist’s dream. Creating whimsical fish with hairy moustaches, witty flying wombats and a hilarious scene with cannibals was out the normal spectrum of my subject matter.

I tried to imagine Louis de Rougemont’s tall tales could be true. In the process of creating the art I found myself, like many others, struck by the charm of one of history’s colourful characters – a loveable dreamer-a master of “beautiful lies”.

Note from the Author: Mark Greenwood
The Greatest Liar on Earth is a tale of shipwreck, catastrophe and miraculous events.

But beneath the surface it’s the ‘true story’ of an unusual character, perhaps an overly enthusiastic dreamer, perhaps a charlatan, who is forced to confront the consequences of his storytelling.

There was a time when his incredible tales took audiences to places they could only imagine. His popularity grew as people turned to his adventures to enrich their lives. Dignitaries were struck by his charm. He was overwhelmed by invitations to lecture from every corner of the globe.
In later years, when he was disgraced as a charlatan, Louis earned a meager living telling stories to anyone who will listen.

In The Greatest Liar on Earth we are left to ask – after we have been entertained by a ripping yarn – does it matter if it is actually true or not?

Walker Books Australia: imminent release
Candlewick Press USA : Release Date: October 2012

See the Trailer. Click here.

Dec 17 2011

Three Books in Three Weeks

In other words, research til you drop. Ten flights, three rental cars, and one traffic violation complete with state trooper saying, “Ma’m, step out of the vehicle.”

Book One: MAYFLOWER Travelling to Plymouth Massachusetts to the Plimoth Plantation

Book Two: JESSE AND THE BOOK BOAT Travelling to Syracuse New York to the Erie Canal Museum

Book Three: MIDNIGHT Travelling to Be’er Sheva, Israel.

It was “work” highly mixed with fun seeing family and friends along the way.

Exciting to see my book FACEOUT at Barnes and Noble on Fifth Ave in NYC and fun signing a book contract in person at Holiday House Publishers.

All is all 2011 was a blessed year. Travelling all over the world, catching up with family, fellow creators, and speaking at International events. Visiting the holiest of places on the planet where I made wishes, lit candles and whispered dreams. Buddhist temples in Japan, Hindu temples in India, the Jewish Wailing Wall, Christ’s Tomb and Allah’s Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
As an Agnostic, I covered all bases without prejudice.

Peace on Earth in 2012